It would be hard to argue that Gary Andersen’s tenure as University of Wisconsin football coach hasn’t been a success.
The Badgers hadn’t entered a fourth quarter of a game they didn’t have a chance to win, and their won-loss record was certainly nothing to look down upon.
A game like Saturday’s 59-24 victory over then-No. 11 Nebraska, though, was the type of win for which every Badgers fan has waited.
While UW piled up wins over middle-of-the-road Big Ten Conference teams, Andersen’s Badgers had come up short in games that carried the most significance before the Cornhuskers came to town.
“Personally, this is a game where you get to line up and you get to coach against Nebraska and you’re Wisconsin and it’s your second year in the Big Ten,” Andersen said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity against a ranked opponent that’s only lost one game all year long.”
UW (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) delivered in a big way, giving Andersen his first signature victory as its coach.
During his first season in Madison, the Badgers dropped key games at Arizona State and Ohio State before losing the Capital One Bowl to South Carolina.
This season, UW allowed LSU to record a come-from-behind victory in one of college football’s most anticipated opening-week matchups.
Everything clicked against Nebraska on Saturday, even after the Cornhuskers’ early 17-3 lead seemingly foreshadowed another disappointing defeat.
“From the beginning of the season, there’s going to be some point where you have to face adversity, and we understand that,” said Melvin Gordon, who broke an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record with 408 rushing yards against Nebraska. “That’s just how the game works. We’re coached to be ready for it.”
UW scored 56 consecutive points after trailing by 14, a performance that jumped the Badgers up eight spots to No. 14 in the latest Associated Press poll.
“This is my fourth year, and there’s been so many big-time games where it’s been some of the best games in college football, but we’ve come out on the losing end,” tight end Sam Arneson said. “(This was) a big-time matchup of two ranked teams fighting for the Western Division crown. We needed it.”
Now Andersen and UW are two wins from getting back to the Big Ten Championship Game, which would present another opportunity to score a huge win and advance to one of college football’s six biggest bowl games.
But they aren’t in Indianapolis yet.
The Badgers know they have to focus on beating Iowa (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) and Minnesota (7-3, 4-2 ) first.
It begins Saturday at Iowa, a rivalry game that provides an immediate opportunity for another signature victory.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time, that’s all we can control,” offensive tackle Rob Havenstein said. “We can’t control anything two Saturdays from now, three Saturdays from now, four Saturdays from now. If you try to, you’re going to end up missing something. But I think the team does a great job of kind of staying in the now, staying in the moment and focusing on what we have to do.”